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Women's brains appear 'years younger' than men's, says new study
06 February 2019, 11:17 | Silvia Roy
Women's brains are four years younger than men's on average
The stunning find may explain why girls stay sharper as they get older than boys, scientists said. "Rather, it seems that women's brains start off at a younger age when they reach adulthood, and they keep that throughout the remainder of their adulthood, basically buying them a few extra years".
Pointing to existing research, the team surmised that women's brains could be free from neurocongitive decline for longer for a number of reasons. The researchers put data from the scans that showed how the brain uses oxygen and glucose into a computer model that was created to estimate the metabolic age of individuals' brains.
The study exclusively focused on brain metabolism, or the brain's ability to use glucose-aka sugar-to function.
Goyal and his co-authors explained that their findings are consistent with evidence from previous studies indicating that, compared with the male brain, the female brain displays less cerebral blood flow loss after puberty, more brain glycolysis (or breaking down of glucose) in young adulthood and decreased loss of certain types of cerebral gene expression over time.
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The team trained an AI algorithm to guess people's ages based on the amount of oxygen and glucose flowing through their brain. They found out that the algorithm yielded brain ages an average of 3.8 years younger than the women's chronological ages.
In a study published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers studied 205 people to figure out how their brains use a portion of sugar in a process called aerobic glycolysis that sustained brain development but dropped steadily with age.
This can cause problems later in life and scientists hope to one day slow it down with state-of-the-art drugs or brain therapy.
Dr. Michael Bloomfield, honorary consultant psychiatrist and head of the Translational Psychiatry Research Group at University College in London, told Newsweek, "It is important that we don't draw unjustified conclusions from this study in terms of differences between men and women, but that doesn't take away the need to ask these questions". They then noted that there was a difference among men and women. The relative sprightliness was detectable even among the youngest subjects, who were in their twenties.
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Regardless of the trigger, increased metabolism could give female brains an edge in the case of studying and creativity in later life, Goyal says. It calculated that the men were an average of 2.4 years older than their actual age.
Goyal and his colleagues hypothesize that the greater youthfulness in the female brain might provide some degree of resilience to aging-related changes. Notably, many of these studies are performed by comparing age-matched females and males. "What we don't know is what it means", he added.
"Certainly, diet and exercise might be part of the equation here and we and others are planning to study this and how body metabolism in general influences brain metabolism in healthy aging and in disease", he said.
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